Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bottom and the Ass's Head

Seattle Opera's Young Artists Program is finishing up studio rehearsals and about to move into the theater for technical rehearsals of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Britten's amazing Shakespeare opera. For me, the great iconic image of Midsummer is always the Beauty & the Beast moment, the fairy queen in love with a man with a donkey's head. But it's one thing to render this image as an image (see above), and something else when you have to come up with a costume piece for a theater production.

For Heidi Ganser, our costume designer for Midsummer, the Donkey Head worn by Nick Bottom the Weaver in Act Two began as one of her many costume sketches for the large cast of Midsummer:

Seattle Opera's expert crafts specialist, Lia Nouwen, is an experienced maker of giant animal heads for opera singers: in last year's Young Artists Program production of Ravel's L'enfant et les sortil├Ęges, both Elizabeth Pojanowski and David Korn wore the giant Squirrel head created by Lia. She started building Bottom's Donkey Head out of foam:
Singing the role of Bottom in our production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is baritone Jeffrey Madison, who showed up in Seattle for rehearsals back in February, and was promptly taken to the costume shop for a Donkey Head fitting:

Since then, in consultation with Ganser and with Stage Director Peter Kazaras, Lia has added a mesh which conceals Jeffrey's face, but leaves him able to see and hear. Interestingly, the mesh has the effect of forcing Jeffrey to act his part with his entire body, since his face is concealed; and it also forces his onstage colleagues (including soloists from our kids' chorus, who play Moth, Cobweb, Peaseblossom, and Mustardseed) to interact with the Donkey's Head, not Jeffrey's.